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Jaguar MK2

Jaguar MK2 Published: 4th Nov 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
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Why not own a...? JAG Mk2?

The problem with most sports cars is that they usually offer transport for just two, but buy a Jaguar Mk2 and the whole family can go along for the ride. While the Mk2 may not be as good to drive as the iconic E-type, it’s arguably better than an XK plus provides most of the fun and much more practicality for, at least, around half the money. Indeed, the only car of that era that could beat the Mk2 was the S-type, thanks to its E-type rear suspension, which is even more of a bargain! That’s for another time…

Model choice

The Mk2 was a logical development to the original sports saloon, which in turn became known as the Mk1. While the shell was basically the same, clever refreshing by William Lyons made it look new. There’s four versions: 2.4., 3.4 (along with later 240/340 offshoots), 3.8 and the Daimler 2.5 V8 although for many there’s only one top cat, the 3.8 – understandably so as it offered sports car pace in its day that’s by no means disgraced today. Along with the detuned E-type engine (220bhp), a limited slip diff was standard plus the option of a much higher-geared power steering system not offered on the 3.4.

That’s not to say that the other Mk2s aren’t the cat’s whiskers. The 3.4 is a lively, smoother and much cheaper alternative and nor should you discard the thought of a 2.4 either. Granted, performance is leisurely, especially as an automatic, and they’re hardly any more frugal but if all you want is the experience of a Mk2, they make fine cruisers as the 2.4 unit is the smoothest XK engine of them all.

Always overlooked, interest in the 2.4s have shifted somewhat because canny buyers have noted that they are generally driven gently (they’re hardly performance saloons!) plus the majority still run in standard trim, unlike the other variants which are normally modded to some degree.

Another left field choice is the Daimler V8 2.5, the resultant child from a marriage of convenience after Jaguar acquired Daimler. That truly wonderful 2.5-litre V8, first seen in the ‘Dart’ sports car (slotting between the 2.4 and 3.4) seemed made for this saloon while its 140bhp output was 20bhp to the good of the rather sluggish 2.4. Bridging the yawning gap between the 3.4 the Daimler originally came as standard with automatic transmission before a manual was offered in 1967; many have been retro-fitted and with overdrive it answers the sole criticism that the V8 was always strongly undergeared.

Apart from an improved Jaguar gearbox, replacing the old heavy and slow Moss unit in ’65 (signified by the rounded polished gear knob), the Mk2 remained largely static during the 1960s before being downgraded during 1966, just before Jaguar merged with British Leyland.

This resulted in the ditching of the standard leather trim for cheaper Ambla (an upper crust PVC!), making those flush-mounted fog lamps optional (now replaced by ugly mesh grilles) and dropping those lovely sounding traditional Windtone horns. Is nothing sacred? Joking aside, overall condition should count the most – surely?

With the open-secret and long awaited XJ6 now delayed until 1968, Jaguar launched the hastily revised 240/340 models where the 2.4 came off the best of them all.

Identified by their slimmer, neater S-type bumpers coupled with 420 style hubcaps and modernised badging, inside the already cheapened interior was further downgraded by deleting those legendary picnic tables (strangely never featuring on the Daimler model), although the wood trim – thankfully – remained untouched. Incidentally, thanks to the 250V8’s slimmer transmission tunnel and MkX-like seating, pre-’65 Daimlers can be technically classed as six seaters!

A 240 was amply compensated for its demotion because the engine was usefully uprated. E-type cylinder head with twin SU carbs (previously Solex) plus a new distributor, improved cooling system and twin exhausts (so it looked sportier too), all raised the power of the 2483cc engine by 11 per cent, from 120bhp to a healthier 133bhp – small wonder that many older 2.4s have been so converted. Although it was kept quiet, the 340 also received the superior E-type straight port cylinder head while the Marles power steering – hitherto only a 3.8 extra – became optional. Those in the know will tell you that a good 340 is almost as fast as the old 3.8 so don’t instantly dismiss one, especially as post ’67 Mk2s remain appreciably cheaper to buy than the ‘real’ Mk2s.

British Racing Green is one of the most popular colours along with low-key metallic finishes such as gunmetal. Red interior trim is also sought after, but the interior must be in good condition. The standard of the interior can make a big difference to Mk2 values, as it gives a good general indication of how well the car has been looked after.

Finally, have you considered what – on paper at least – is the best Mk2 of them all? It’s the S-type of course, the posh cat with its MkX-like interior and E-type rear suspension. Jaguar test driver legend Norman Dewis rates them higher than a Mk2 unlike the majority of enthusiasts, which keeps the values down to only a bit more than a 240/340. Just try one before deciding on that Mk2!

Behind the wheel

Let’s start with a bit of bubble bursting. Mk2s were good in their day but that was fast approaching 60 years ago so if you’re expecting anything other than a vintage feel you’re going to be disappointed. Even the later Jaguar gearbox is slow to use while all the controls are heavy, as you expect from a 1950’s design. And while they looked fast on the silver screen, the reality is a bit different today, especially the handling and steering. We mention all this not to put you off but to remember that old saying about meeting your heroes…

Adjust your hat and view the Jag as wonderful nostalgia drive down memory lane and you’ll love the Mk2 experience. This is not to say that the Jag can’t be modernised for today’s roads because it can – and many are – but while the numerous mods can give this cat sharper claws, we feel it imperative the car’s character isn’t lost along the way. One department where the Jag can still put up a fair fight is performance. A good 3.8 is GTi fast while the 3.4 is no slouch either, especially the tweaked 340.

A word about the 2.4; yes it does feel smoothly sluggish and a 0-60mph stroll of 17 seconds makes you understand why Jaguar never loaned this model out to the press for road testing, but if you’re more into sedate cruising you won’t grumble too much. The later 240 has much more respectable pace, so much so that you may have second thoughts over a more expensive 3.4.

The $64,000 question is how does a V8 250 Daimler square up to the Mk2? It’s not so much the performance differences but more to with character; the Jag is the more sporting drive while the Daimler is more suited to genteel jaunts; ironic given that the lighter V8 engine actually makes the car not so heavy and lumbering than the Jaguar!

For the majority of wannabe Mk2 owners, the pleasure comes from the Jag’s splendid XK purr and that drawing room interior. Despite their age, a Mk2 is still a special – if not overly roomy – place to travel in but with overdrive fitted any model can lope along at the legal limit with ease. A popular option when new, it’s rare to find a Mk2 without that extra electrical ratio as many were retro-fitted. If done right then the axle ratio should also have to be changed (along with speedo) for a lower ratio to restore acceleration. If it isn’t, the car might not go as well although will cruise better due to even higher gearing. Don’t lose any sleep over this point though.

What to pay

Whether it’s down to their popularity or that most cat lovers have already satisfied their desire, but Mk2 values have stagnated of late, but this is good news for first timers. Sure, concours MOD 3.8s running on wire wheels can still command £100K and genuine Coombs cars somewhat more, but general excellent examples can be had for half this and good ‘work in progress’ models for around £25-£30K As you expect, 3.8s are worth the most and can be worth there times that of a 2.4 with the 3.4 somewhere in-between.

Daimlers are normally valued mid way between a 2.4 and 3.4 although it really boils down to their condition. Projects (any version) are £10K gambles because to restore one properly costs what you would pay for a top cat from the outset – a professional interior retrim alone can cost up to ten grand.

Best value has to be the later 240/340s which can be up to half the price of an equivalent earlier Mk2, meaning that a respectable if rough around the edges 240 is a ten grand buy, making projects (costing a few thousand at best) uneconomic unless you deride as much pleasure tinkering as you do driving. That includes a fair number of us!

Condition is paramount and why it’s better to own a cracking 240 than a mediocre Mk2, even a 3.8.

Genuine Mk2s will always find buyers, especially if 3.4 or 3.8-litre powered. There’s not much difference in values between these two and they’re much the same to drive too – but despite this, some people won’t settle for anything less than a 3.8 says the Mk2 registrar for the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club.

Making one better

The first car ever to win the Touring Car Championship back in 1963, there’s more than ever upgrades to make a Mk2 even more usable and even more desirable. What matters most is that the external appearance isn’t changed (it makes it hard to resale) – a Combs-style louvred bonnet (which also aids cooling) and rear wheel spats is likely to be as far as you should go.

When it comes to the oily bits, the sky is pretty much the limit but even if you want to keep your stock, an electronic ignition and uprated radiator are well worth adding, especially to the Daimler which sports a quirky ‘twin points’ set up.

In excess of 300bhp is attainable but most owners settle for E-type level outputs and you can use either factory or aftermarket components; speak to a specialist. A cheap mod is to use Series 3 XJ6 head and cams, but surprisingly few retro fit the larger 4.2 engine even though they’re a perfect fit and plentiful.

Traditional suspension upgrade works well and the all-wheel disc set up may only require an overhaul and better pads although you can go large with Coopercraft (or similar) upgrades. Keeping it in-house, the 420 front axle complete with brakes works excellently – as does its power steering. Or you can go all modern with an electric EZ system. Modern automatic transmissions are sought after (XJ40) and the XJ6 five-speed manual ’box works well too.

Maintenance matters

Simon Cronin is the Mk2 registrar for the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club and has run a 3.8 model for almost 40 years!

He says: “Even though the Mk2 is very sought after, there are surprisingly few really good cars available, as proper repairs are so costly. A full restoration will still cost much more than the car will be worth, which is why most Mk2s don’t get the love they deserve. As a result it’s essential that you look at lots of cars before buying, to establish whether a car is as good as you think it is”.

Sound advice but Cronin continues: “Few people will take on Mk2s that need significant work, with projects particularly unlikely to find buyers. However, enthusiasts are more likely to take on a ropey 3.8-litre car, which is why these editions tend to be the subject of the most thorough restorations”.

While not MGB simple the Mk2 poses relatively few problems for the average enthusiast although most ‘downstairs’ jobs are heavy duty. A clutch change, for example requires taking the engine out (and it weighs a hefty amount so you need a substantial host) or dropping the entire front axle – small wonder it’s usually left to workshops. The valve clearances are set by shims and ideally should be done with the head off (a good time to carry out a decoke) but they stay set for years. Cronin, who is the tours co-ordinator for the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club does most maintenance himself including lubricating the suspension twice a year, applying Dinitrol rustproofing annually and replacing the oil and filter every 3000 miles (critical on the XK engine, although not cheap requiring some 13 old fashioned pints a go) but says “as long as it’s properly maintained, a Mk2 will just take whatever you throw at it”.

Unlike E-types, you can’t obtain new shells although, in the main, spares are plentiful and attainable both new and used. The twice-yearly International Spares Days at Stoneleigh Park (Warcs) is worth attending for not only parts but to chat with owners and specialists.

In conclusion

Mk2 was a very capable car in its day – so much so, that it’s still surprisingly usable more than 50 years on, as a daily driver if you wish. We’d prefer to let the cat out of the bag on special occasions where the immense pleasure of owning one of the founding cars of the classic car movement will have you smiling like a Cheshire cat!

Buying tips

1. General

Don’t buy a project unless you’ve got very deep pockets to pay for a professional rebuild or you’re good at DIY. Front wings, for example, are nearly £2400 each new.

All that wood and leather may be past it. Sure, you can buy trim kits off the shelf, but you need to know what you’re doing to get everything looking right; there are 29 pieces of burr walnut alone.

Delaminated wood is common, as are seats with leather that’s cracked or split. Carpets also wear out while headlinings get discoloured. Replacing the lot professionally costs £7000+ if you want it to look better than new.

2. Body

A notorious rust bucket. Analyse the area in the nose where the chassis legs, crossmember and radiator cowls meet as rust is common here. This area is often bodged, as it’s a complicated area as well as one that’s overlooked by buyers.

The Panhard rod mounting in the offside rear wheelarch tends to dissolve, with repairs very tricky as it’s also complicated. Rotten anti-roll bar mountings are a pain as there are captive nuts within the chassis legs, which can shear.

The rear spring hangers consist of three steel sections. Rot penetrates the floorpans, wheelarches and the back of the sills along with the spare wheel well’s centre section and the fuel tank. Expect to see some past repairs here.

The outer panels also corrode spectacularly, so look for filler. Focus on the grille and headlight surrounds plus the area where the sill, rear door and wheel spat meet. The trailing edge of the boot lid also rusts, as do the door bottoms.

3. Engine

Look for a service history, make sure the engine doesn’t have noisy timing chains or over silent valve clearances. A cherished engine easily lasts 300,000 miles, the key being 3000-miles oil changes. An alloy cylinder head means anti-freeze levels must be maintained; a new radiator every 5-10 years is pretty normal.

Expect oil pressure of 40psi when cruising. Some quite heavy oil consumption is quite normal even on sound engines. Rear crankshaft oil seal leak, engine needs a full rebuild to replace it.

The 3.8-litre is different, as it features cylinder liners. As a result, it has an extra water gallery at the top of the block and tends to run hotter. Liners must be removed to check for corrosion during a rebuild – it’s not always done.

Daimler V8 is simple OHV unit and poses few problems other than overheating (and potentially head to warping) as it runs hotter than the SP250 sports car. Most engines have an appetite for oil, with the earliest cars guzzling at the rate of 300-400 miles per pint. Worth ensuring there’s at least 15psi on the dial at tickover; expect to see 35-45psi at 40mph.

4. Running gear

The Moss ’box fitted until late 1965 is strong, but parts are now scarce. As most Mk2s came with the earlier box, these are easier to find – the later all-synchro units are rare.

Cars without power steering featured a Burman recirculating ball system, which is heavy, low-geared, but reliable. More troublesome is the power-assisted system on pre-1963 cars.

Brake overhauls are expensive and handbrakes are notoriously ineffective and awkward to set up correctly.


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